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PUSH Conference Kicks Off in Minneapolis
Regine Debatty, 15 Jun 08

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By Jessica Chapman

This is the first entry of a series of daily blogs from Jessica Chapman, who is reporting live for Worldchanging from this year's PUSH conference.

The PUSH conference taking place this week in Minneapolis bills itself as the most fun you'll have had since college. It's a bold statement, but one that past conference attendees unabashedly endorse. Previous conference-goers enthusiastically describe this Midwestern meeting of minds as an "unconference" and a "mini-Davos."

Now in its sixth year, PUSH carries on its annual tradition of uniting creative thinkers from a variety of fields--business, politics, publishing and education to name a few--around issues of professional innovation and opportunities for the future. Organizers say this year's program, called The Fertile Delta, will focus on "the polarizing effect of globalization on markets, identities, resources, politics, culture--and the exciting new opportunities that lie in 'the space between.'"

PUSH is the brainchild of Cecily Sommers, a brand strategist and futurist who founded the Minneapolis-based Push Institute (the conference being its star offshoot). Sommers' approach, characterized by a keen passion for collaborative exploration coupled with a healthy realization of the power of creativity to fuel that passion, has won her and the event fierce adherents.

Case in point: the conference will intersperse music and performance into its idea-generating strategy sessions. And even the sessions have an inviting, no-boundaries feel according to glowing reviews. Hosting the event in the Twin Cities, a somewhat off-the-radar creative hub, testifies to a certain conscientiousness and commitment (though the organization is also headquartered here).

The conference kicks off tonight, but really gets down to business tomorrow morning, and wraps up Tuesday evening. Four segments over the upcoming two days will be guided by the topics of economics, politics, religion and technology. Sessions include "The Myth of Flatness," "Leaders in Reverse," "Social Shapers" and "Solving for X."

As a journalist interested in the bigger issues informing daily news events, I am personally excited to hear what Eboo Patel, founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, has to say. Patel's organization brings together youth from various religious backgrounds, motivated by the idea that working together will help erase misunderstanding.

Having written about juvenile justice, I also look forward to learning about the work of Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John. The couple co-founded Challenge Day, an Oprah-endorsed award-winning program for teens that deals with issues of discrimination and isolation.

A quick glance at the roster reveals there will be a somewhat blurry line between attendees and presenters, as both groups are composed of a host of accomplished, uber-talented individuals from many different walks. PUSH's emphasis on a collaborative approach as essential for true innovation--both personal and professional--will be served if a group of this caliber gives even a pea-sized amount of their brainpower.

Stay tuned here for daily updates of conference highlights and tidbits. For more information on the conference here; or read previous coverage of PUSH from Worldchanging.

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